The Native American Alumni chapter, Chicana & Chicano Studies, and Native American Studies recently hosted the 3rd annual Ethnic Studies and Alumni Town Hall.

This webinar was hosted virtually on zoom, with three sessions focusing on high school achievement, legislation, and the Yazzie/Martinez education ruling case and reports from various institutions and initiatives.

This event was organized and created by Native American Studies (NAS), Chicano/Chicana Studies (CCS), Africana Studies (AS), and the Native American Alumni Chapter (NAAC).

“The Ethnic Studies Town Hall has been a great success with wonderful advocates speaking on issues related to the importance of Ethnic studies in New Mexico,” said Dr. Wendy Greyeyes, assistant professor of Native American studies, and an organizer for the event. “With a state that is a majority-minority, the political dynamics in the state of New Mexico is unique from other states. As the 2019 American Community Survey show, the majority-minority make up 63.4 percent of the population.”

Racial Distribution in NM

The townhall creates an opportunity for ethnic studies to raise awareness of important issues impacting UNM Ethnic Studies departments. These departments showcase their classes and projects occurring within the ethnic studies programs. It also creates an opportunity to highlight and understand upcoming state legislative initiatives that have direct impacts on UNM efforts.

“Each group carries its own history and experiences in shaping the New Mexico we know now. These ethnic studies departments are a critical part of our heritage as New Mexicans,” said Greyeyes.

Ervina Castillo, Former President of the Native American Alumni Chapter; Lieutenant Governor Howie Morales; Dr. Tiffany Lee, Chair of Native American Studies; and Dr. Irene Vasquez, Chair of the Chicano/Chicana Studies spoke about UNM ethnic studies, including program updates, Native American studies and Chicana and Chicano studies.

Panelists consisting of Micha Bitsinnie, Corky Frausto, Gabino Noriega and Keith Sanchez, as well as commentator Dr. Patricia Trujillo and moderator Dr. Irene Vasquez, spoke about high school pedagogical strategies for successfully retaining students and creating a path to college.

Senator Linda Lopez, Representative Roybal Caballero and Amy Whitfield, as well as commentator Barbara Damron, Director for the UNM’s Government Relations, and moderator Froilan Orozco, UNM Graduate Student, discussed state and legislative priorities and the governor’s advisory council for racial justice.

Following a short break filled with updates by ethnic and racial justice leaders, panelists consisting of Dr. Lloyd Lee, Regis Pecos, Jasmine Yepa, and LaShawna Tso, Assistant Secretary of Indian Education, as well as commentator Dr. Glenabah Martinez and moderator Dr. Tiffany Lee spoke about Yazzie/Martinez status, the Tribal Education Alliance, and New Mexico Public Education Department (NMPED).

“In the past, the ethnic studies departments, Native American Studies (NAS), Chicano/Chicana Studies (CCS), and Africana Studies collaborated to educate the New Mexico community and our legislative advocates on the need for our programs and departments. We organized with the Native American Alumni Chapter (NAAC) to co-host the event. We invited many community leaders, members, tribal leaders, and state legislative members,” said Greyeyes.

In total, approximately 72 people joined the webinar via zoom, and over 50 people connected through Facebook live.